Monday, October 12, 2009

Second thoughts!

Yes- it did snow again... 3 inches more...

We usually don't have snow in October. This is the third time in 60 years that it has snowed on October in MN!

It is pretty BUT much too early!

Once again we were not ready!

This is a question for all of you out their in Bloggyland! 

As we were in process to bring Sarah home I did some research on the computer as to what to do about the "language issue". Sarah would come to us speaking a dialect of her hometown and some Mandarin that she had learned at school. As it turned out her spoken Mandarin was pretty good. 

It was wonderful to hear her chatter away in Chinese! Our guide told us she spoke it quite well. She could converse with anyone we met. Sarah would sing Chinese children's songs to us and try to teach us to count. We would all end up giggling throughout the process!  She had a stubbornness about her and she let us know through the translator that she had no intention of ever learning English and that if we intended to speak to her we would need to learn Chinese! Our guide was quite surprised at this response from our Sarah! She translated it and then laughed nervously!

When a family adopts in infant, toddler or preschooler they know their child will fully learn how to speak English. Their will not be an accent or incomplete sentences. Their child's language will be fully integrated. 

When adopting a preteen I would assume that child would most likely keep much of their native language. It is the language they have been surrounded with for approximately 12-13 yrs of their life. The can speak, read and write it. A few families that I have known have gone to great lengths for their children to have the opportunity to keep it. If you have adopted in this age group what are you planning to do with the "language issue"? There is not a right answer- it is okay to let it go or keep it.

Anna falls into the toddler category but our other girls do not. They are in the in between age- the 7-10 yr olds. Before Sarah came home I did research this issue and please feel free to correct me. The only place I found a definitive answer was from the BG foundation in New York. The research I believe was done on Russian adoptees. It said that in order to fully integrate into life in America and the English language a child would need to lose their native language and then fully learn the English language. Before Sarah came home I had time to read up on this, now I do not and I am questioning what I have read.

Our plan for Sarah because of what I read was to have her be immersed in the English language at the expense of her Chinese. We figured she was young enough to go this route and in the long run it would be better for her. Everything was going along as planned. She was making nice progress with her english and she was forgetting her Chinese. The first 4 months she found it very upsetting if anyone spoke to her in Chinese. For the first 7 months she wanted nothing to do with the language and claimed she had completely forgotten it. If asked to say anything in Chinese she would refuse but she would also giggle when others attempted.

Second thoughts- that is what I am having now. How do I really know that is correct. Did I read it wrong? How often is there research that is later found to be inaccurate. Usually my gut is the best indicator and it is not so sure that a blanket statement such as "to fully gain one language you must lose the other" is correct in our situation. There are so many bilingual people out there that can speak two languages beautifully why shouldn't we give it a try?

Hubby and I have few things that are important for us regarding the language issue.
1. We want our daughters to speak English without an accent.
2. We want them to be able to speak in full sentences and not in broken English.
3. We want to be able to have in depth conversations with our daughter and not always keep the conversation so superficial. Therefor they need to have a strong vocabulary base.
4. We want them to be able to read good books in English.

About 2 months ago Sarah started showing a rekindled interest in the Chinese language. She started recalling words. She wanted to share what she could remember with us. She wanted to watch TV shows like Ni Hao Ki lan and mei mei videos. When ever she over heard others speaking Chinese she would tell us that "they are speaking Chinese". Then, if there were a few words she understood she would translate them for us. Sarah loves everything Chinese. Even though I know she is very very happy right here with us her eyes light up when she hears the language, the music, or sees the calligraphy, the food- anything Chinese!

We had Sarah all signed up for Chinese language and culture school on Saturday mornings BUT backed out. Why?? two reasons-as a family we didn't what to book up every Saturday morning September through May. We also were fearful of stopping her progress in English. Hmmm - the second reason isn't quite working for me now. 

I am wondering what are your thoughts on this issue? What will you do with your child/ children? Or what did you do? Would you do it differently now? Does anyone regret not keeping their child's native language? Has anyone been successful in keeping their child's native language?

This is what think we are going to do. We are once again working on Rosetta Stone- and we will continue it for the English, along with all the other things we are doing at our homeschool. We will look into Chinese language classes and probably get something going. It maybe in our home or out at a class- we have to figure out how much of a commitment we can do. I am just feeling a pull towards doing that. We have prayed about it and I am thinking we are being led in that direction.

I look forward to reading your thoughts on his issue!


TanyaLea said...

Obviously, I have not experience here. Therefore, I have no advice or input. But I am genuinely looking forward to reading what others have to say about it. I love these 'open topics' that you post on your blog. Interesting AND educational!!


Sammy said...

We adopted Arden when she was almost 12. She'll have been here 3years in Dec. She speaks great English and kept her Chinese. I have her read Chinese books and now she is watching Chinese cartoons on the web for practice.

I'm adopting two right now too! : - )

Jennifer O'Cain said...

Jean, We too have been undecided about what to do about this. I agree with the 4 points you made about what you and hubby want for your girls, we do to. I don't think the Chinese classes would hurt. We almost signed our Lily up for classes but they were at a very inconveinent time and location. I also started to wonder if the classes were geared more for children whose first language is not Chinese but English. Would it be too elementary for her or not. We also have thought what is the benfit to her keeping her language? Not one really unless she wants to go back to China someday or use it in a job. I have noticed lately she is losing some of her Chinese language skills and doesn't even want to try to read it,so if I am going to do something I should do it soon.
Have you asked Sarah what she wants. That may give you some clue. I think that if she wants to keep it up then try. I am sure if you miss a class here or there on sat. mornings you won't be the only ones.

I know I have rambled...can't wait to see what you do. Maybe you'll inspire me!

Jennifer O'Cain said...

Oh and the snow, that is just crazy. This southern girl cannot even imagine snow like that, especially in October. I wonder what the winter has in store for ya? I hope we get some snow. Lily is counting on it, we may have to take a road trip north to see some!

Mom Of Many said...

No clue on the language thing...but love, love, love the snow out YOUR window....wouldn't find it quite as pretty if it was out MY window...but YOURS? Gorgeous!! And I love your pretty...they look like your outside is inside. =)

Sally- That Girl! said...

Honestly, I think if you could keep her native language that is what would be best for Sarah, but then again you would have to read my current post on my blog to know that every time we go to adopt I put heavy issues on my heart about our children's birth countries, culture and question whether we are doing the right thing even though I believe God called us to do this. It is the enemy sneaking in when a God thing is going on!!!

Loving you on whatever decision you make! I know it will be what is right for your family!!

From the Erben Gang..... said...

Of course whatever you do is the right thing! You are doing your best and putting much thought and prayers into it! I think the two are not mutually exclusive. She would be able to speak chinese and english well. I think she would regret, as an adult, not speaking chinese. Growing up in South Florida many Cuban families had this problem. They decided to only have their kids speak english. BUT they looked hispanic and as adults the hispanic community automatically spoke to them in spanish. They were very frustrated that they didn't know how to speak spanish. I have other friends that speak Greek, german, (and my husband Robert speaks Czech) which they spoke at home and without an english accent. Anna is one thing, she doesn't speak chinese. But with the three older girls, I think they would be very thankful, as adults, that they "kept it". Its so hard to learn a language as an adult~ so easy as a child! But I agree, Not easy on the family with the schedules!!!

Mom to my China Posse said...

I am curious to find out what others say as well. kamryn is 7 and while she has picked up English quite well the tones she inserts and the flow is still tough. Its almost like her words run together, she speaks with a accent as well. She is the only one of our 5 girls from China that was adoptied older and the only one whose English is spoken with such harsh tones.
By the way the snow is beautiful but liek you said a little early. Were getting tons of rain here and its alot colder than usual.

The Whitledge Family said...

Hello, I am new to the adoption scene, but find your story very fasinating. I have just began the journey to adopt our little girl from China. I am a special needs teacher and feel drawn to the the SN in China. I feel like God is pulling me in this direction and we are going with it. I'm so excited. My sister was born with a cleft lip and I for some reason feel like we will accept a little girl with a cleft lip when the time is right. Who knows?? I would love to email you with questions that I might have. My email address is My blogg address is Thank you for your time.

Our China Starfish said...

I think you are doing exactly right in following where you think He is leading you, not worrying so much what is better/worse in the views of the world around you. I would love for Tessa to keep her native language (as well as teach the little ones and the rest of the family Chinese); but right now, Tessa's life is so full of learning about God, her family, moving forward in her education (and she LOVES sports so we try to keep her in them) that we're worried about adding one more thing (ie. Chinese lessons) is too much. The cost and the distance we would have to go would impact our family in bigger ways. I worry sometimes others will think we're doing not "right" by her, by helping her keep her language; however, in my heart I have peace that He will place an opportunity in our path if/when it is meant to be. Circumstances differ greatly from family to family, so there is no "one" right answer. two cents are to go where you think HE is leading you regardless of data/research/etc. You are doing a great job with your beautiful girls and He continues to equip you every day to handle this often challenging job! :)

PolishMom said...

Hi -

I a new to your blog hopping :-) and thought I would just quickly comment.

I have 3 older adopted kiddos, all with varied differences when it comes to their native language. Our son (adopted at 7, home 8 years) wants nothing to do with his native language, speaks English fluently and without an accent. Our daughter (adopted at 9.5, home 4 years) requested and takes classes in her native language (can still hold a basic conversation and understand more of what she hears than what she can communicate back), still retains her accent (beautiful) and speaks English fluently. Our second daughter (adopted at 8, in the US for 5 years, with our family for 1.5 years) has no accent and is fluent in English. Her first family demanded no speaking of her native language in her home and she is VERY resentful of this. She has started classes again in her native language now that she is in our home but has lost almost all of her native skills and she is starting at ground zero.

I wonder why the number 1 item on your list that you and your husband have deemed important in language issues is that you don't want your children to have accents. Only one of my children has an accent and it looks like she always will. To me, it is beautiful and makes her unique. To be honest, an accent should be the least of your worries. Number 3 and 4 are much more important to their development and self-esteem.

Children are like sponges and can keep up two languages without as much difficulty as adults. If you can keep their native language, I would highly encourage it. They may not thank you now, but your children will appreciate it when they get older.

Both of my daughters, because they were older and because of the specific circumstances surrounding their adoptions, want to return to their native country to visit when they are of age. Being able to speak their native language will help in that visit as well.